Surveys 101: Some Basics You Should Know


Anyone who is a potential homebuyer should understand why surveys are important. That’s because they provide detailed information about the property that is being considered for purchase. Just as with any other purchase that you make, it’s just smart to really understand what you’re getting. With real property, this is even more important because of the large financial investment.

We created this blog to educate homebuyers on basic information about surveys that is useful and good to know.

What Is a Survey?

A survey is an official document that defines the area and features of a piece of property, along with structures and any other improvements that are located on it. A survey will show the outline of the property, its shape, its total size, and the length of each boundary line surrounding the property. It will also show outlines of the home or other buildings located on the property, roads or other rights of way running through the property, and any encroachments on the property or any limitations imposed on the property by state or local governments. A survey will also usually include a smaller topography map that is basically a zoomed out view showing where the property is located in relation to other landmarks, waterways, roads and so on, in the area. There are two primary types of surveys: home boundary surveys and house location drawings.

What Is a Boundary Survey?

A boundary survey is based on iron rods that are physically in the ground on a property to mark the corners. Surveyors will use special equipment to pull exact dimensions from different points around the house, and then map those points with spray paint or stakes to show where the property begins and ends.

What Is a House Location Drawing?

A house location drawing shows the location of the home and any other structures and improvements on a property in relation to the boundary lines, which are determined based on a recorded deed or other official information provided to the surveyor. The boundary lines are assumed, in other words, and are not actually surveyed using iron rods or other physical markers.

What Are Other Differences Between Boundary Surveys and House Location Drawings?

A house location drawing is adequate for most loans and is more commonly requested by mortgage lenders than a boundary survey, but it is not as precise as a boundary survey. In Maryland, for example, while a house location drawing must be accurate to within one foot, a boundary survey must be accurate to within a quarter of an inch. Boundary surveys are also quite a bit more expensive than house location drawings.

Can I Request a Survey?

Lending institutions may require a survey – typically a house location drawing – prior to funding a mortgage. However, if you are not using a lender or your lender does not require a survey, you still have the right to request one. A house location drawing is adequate for most situations; however, a boundary survey will give you more precisely define the property’s boundary lines. You may want to request a boundary survey in the event that there is some question about property lines. For example, a neighbor to the property has placed a fence on the property which appears to be without the boundaries of the property you plan to purchase.

Who Pays for the Survey?

Your sales contract will indicate who pays for the survey, but typically the buyer will request and pay for the survey.  This can be negotiated by either party prior to finalizing the contract, however; therefore, the homebuyer can request in the contract that the seller pay for the survey, although it’s not a given that they will agree to this.

Lakeside Title Streamlines Real Estate Transactions

Lakeside Title Company provides title insurance and numerous title services carefully designed to streamline residential and commercial real estate transactions for lenders, realtors, buyers and sellers. To learn more about our comprehensive title-related services, give us a call at 410-992-1070. We look forward to the chance to serve you!




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